Redraft: Rookies to Watch

With the 2014 NFL Draft completed and mini camps on the horizon the NFL and fantasy football seasons will be here before we know it.While Dynasty players may be clamoring for rookies as they look to strengthen their teams, there are rookies who will provide fantasy value next season in redraft formats.

The redraft rookies to watch are:

Bishop Sankey (RB) Tennessee Titans

Bishop Sankey will have every opportunity to be the feature back in Tennessee. Shonn Greene is having a second surgery after going under the knife last September. While Greene should be ready for week 1 Sankey and Dexter McCluster are likely to shoulder the load come week 1. Sankey has what it takes to be a feature back. At the University of Washington he gained 1870 yards on over 300 carries, finding the end zone 20 times. While he isn’t a dynamic pass catcher, he has the ability to add some value as a receiving option. The Titans view Sankey as a three down back. The Titans have continued to upgrade their offensive line over the past two season including Taylor Lewan at pick 11 in this years draft. Sankey will be a borderline top 20 back for me assuming he is getting all the reps in mini camps and into training camp.

Storm Johnson (RB) Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars took Storm Johnson in the final round of the draft but he has the potential to be a fantasy darling. While the Jaguars signed Toby Gerhart in the off-season, the Jaguars will likely employ a two back system. Delone Carter has already been released and I don’t see Jordan Todman as the Jaguars number two option I see Storm Johnson shouldering much of the load as the season goes along. Another positive for Johnson, the Jaguars took Storm’s college teammate Blake Bortles who will likely be under center for the Jaguars come week 1. While I will be monitoring the information coming out of Jacksonville, I would be comfortable to taking Storm Johnson starting in round 9 or 10.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Sammy Watkins (WR) Buffalo Bills

I typically avoid rookie receivers, as the transition at that position can be one of the most difficult to make. However Sammy Watkins is a special player with huge play making abilities. He comes to Buffalo as the feature receiver in the Bills offense. Assuming EJ Manuel can return from injury that ended his 2013 season, the Bills passing attack should be much improved. The Bills should be playing from behind most of the season and the passing attack will be the primary offensive attack. I would love to grab Watkins in the mid-rounds but the hype could push him up into the early rounds, which would be too early for me to take him.

Mike Evans (WR) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans will play opposite Vincent Jackson in the Buccaneer’s offense. Lovie Smith seems to be building a clone of the Bears offense he built in Chicago with his new team in Tampa Bay. Lovie even brought in Josh McCown to run his offense. Evans may start slow but I expect Evans to evolve into an Alshon Jeffrey clone. Evans will have big play potential and could produce double-digit touchdowns early in his career. I prefer Evans to Watkins because I view the offense to be more stable and the touchdown probability to be higher. If I’m in round 8 or 9 and like the direction of my team I would be fine selecting Evans. I could be inclined to take him higher than that. 

Brandin Cooks (WR) New Orleans Saints

Brandin Cooks has the potential become a fantasy stud and PPR monster. The Saints moved Darren Sproles before the draft leaving a void in the backfield primarily as a pass catcher. While Cooks was a wide receiver at Oregon State, many expect him to line up in the backfield and be a dynamic weapon out of the backfield. I am curious to see how he is categorized on all of the fantasy websites. I want to see if he is used like Percy Harvin has been and how many touches Sean Payton can generate for him. Id be willing to look at him late in drafts. In a PPR league id be fine after 9th round.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Eric Ebron (TE) Detroit Lions

Eric Ebron was one of my favorite picks for fantasy purposes. I think Ebron has the potential to be what we all hoped Brandon Pettigrew would be. His athleticism will be utilized in an offense that loves to chuck it all over the yard. Ebron instantly goes into the back end of my top 10 tight ends. If I do not get the elite tight ends (Graham, Gronk, Thomas) I will likely wait and hope I can snag Ebron later. I will target him in rounds 7-9.

Troy Niklas (TE) Arizona Cardinals

Troy Niklas is a great fit in Bruce Arians offense that utilizes the down the field throws. With Larry Fitzgerlad and Michael Floyd on the outside the middle of the field should be wide open. Niklas should be utilized in the red zone as well making him a great late round flyer. Another tight end I love for 2014. I think Niklas has the ability to make a Jordan Cameron or Julius Thomas like impact. I would love to snag him at the end of my drafts and hope he hits. In 10-12 team leagues a replacement will be available if he is a dud.

 

Worth a look

Not all the rookies are sure fire instant impacts. But by paying attention to training camps and depth charts will help you going into drafts. There are a couple guys that I will be keeping an eye on. Primarily these guys will either be handcuff options or potential lottery tickets very late.

(Robert Mayer USA TODAY Sports)

(Robert Mayer USA TODAY Sports)

Carlos Hyde (RB) San Francisco 49ers

Carlos Hyde is a big physical back that has the ability to get to the second level  and make big plays. While the end of Frank Gore as a fantasy option is not happening anytime soon, I believe Hyde would step into the role vacated by Gore. If I am a Frank Gore owner I am targeting Carlos Hyde late in drafts. I  see Marcus Lattimore having a role in the 49er offense but as a supplemental piece. Lattimore has gone through two horrific knee injuries and the 49ers would be smart to work him in slowly. Hyde would shoulder the load and Lattimore would spell him. Something like 60/40 with Hyde getting the looks at the goal line.

Tre Mason (RB) St Louis Rams

The Rams took Tre Mason in round three of the 2014 NFL Draft. Tre Mason is a physical back that runs much like Stacey. Zac Stacey took a big step forward last season and will likely be a first round pick in upcoming fantasy drafts.If I own Zac Stacey, i will be targeting Mason as a handcuff. If Stacey goes down Tre Mason would likely step into the feature role and could provide tremendous value.

Martavis Bryant (WR) Pittsburgh Steelers

Martavis Bryant is a talented receiver going into a situation in Pittsburgh where there are catches to be had. Outside of Antonio Brown, no player stands out above the rest. The Steelers brought Lance Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey via free agency. While I expect 2nd year receiver Markus Wheaton to make strides this season, I expect Bryant to become an integral part of the passing attack.  If by October Bryant is making noise in the Steelers offense don’t be surprised.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers)

While Kelvin Benjamin is more of a project than a polished receiver, the opportunity for Benjamin to make a name for himself is there. The Panthers have almost nothing at receiver and Cam Newton will look at Benjamin early and often. While id be much more excited about Benjamin in dynasty leagues opposed to redraft but at the end of the draft and he’s sitting there it might just be too tempting for me to pass up.

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